Will the re-release of Coca-Cola & Coffee jolt consumers into action?

October 2020

Part of a ‘lift and shift’ strategy transplanting successful products into new markets, Coca-Cola with Coffee will soon be appearing in supermarkets and convenience stores across America. This isn’t the first time Coca-Cola – or the broader category – has launched a coffee-infused cola in the US; however, previous attempts – including Coca-Cola Blak and Pepsi Kona – haven’t been successful.

While the launch was initially timed to coincide with the release of Pespi Café, global events have delayed both until 2021. Using authentic Brazilian coffee beans and coming in three flavors (Vanilla, Dark Blend and Caramel), will Coca-Cola with Coffee provide a much needed boost to the brand’s flagging sales?

We use 3 C’s to predict the in-market success of new products:

  • Captivate: Does it stand out and elicit a positive emotional response?
  • Connect: Is the brand instantly recognizable?
  • Compel: Does it pre-dispose people toward purchase?

Captivate

The combination of coffee and cola certainly piqued consumers’ interest, especially given it was expected to be a departure from the parent brand’s traditionally sweet domain.

While this meant some people were curious to give it a try, an equal proportion were apprehensive about its imagined taste. Some were turned off by its high caffeine volume, exacerbating already-established connotations around soda being unhealthy.

Connect

The famous cursive font, red logo, and slimline can made it immediately obvious what brand was behind the product, despite it being a departure from Coke’s core soda range.

While familiarity with design elements helped convey a level of trust and reassurance, the flavor pairing was considered a strange fit given Coca-Cola is traditionally associated with being ‘sweet’, ‘fizzy’ and ‘refreshing’.

Compel

Containing double the caffeine of regular Coke, many people felt this made the product suitable for when you need an ‘energy boost’ or afternoon ‘pick-me-up’.

However, “refreshment coffee” wasn’t a fluent idea for many others, failing to trigger relevant usage occasions.

Conclusion
Coca Cola with Coffee New Product Innovation Testing

A new twist from an iconic brand always gets tongues wagging, and Coca-Cola with Coffee was no different.

The slimline can, flavor range and coffee beans all geared the product toward a younger and more savvy coffee drinker, while lavishings of red and other recognizable design cues attempted to reassure people of the familiar Coke taste.

However, connotations attached to Coke’s hero red color led many – rightly or wrongly – to interpret the product as simply being a new flavor/variant, overshadowing the functional benefits associated with an extra dose of caffeine.

If the greater opportunity for Coke is to lean more heavily into the product’s added caffeine kick, moving away from the traditional red colors and circular lock-up – which strongly cue soda connotations – could help position it in a clearer and more compelling way. As could more overtly reinforcing the coffee’s origins, perhaps by co-branding the product with Costa Coffee (which Coca-Cola owns).

Like the retro-look adopted for the brand’s signature mixers range, a similar design could help position the product as more contemporary and authentic.

This is a self-funded case study using our Innovation Testing solution.

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